BETHEL, ALASKA – The Alaska Army National Guard helped rescue two overdue snow machiners suffering from severe frostbite near Tuntutuliak Feb. 14.
After learning the two men were overdue, the Alaska State Troopers requested assistance from the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The AKRCC asked for help from the Alaska Army National Guard, which currently has a UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter at its aviation facility in Bethel to train and familiarize aircrews with flying in the region.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brian Kruse, pilot in command, said the aircrew picked up Alaska State Trooper Zachary Huckstep before beginning the search around Tuntutuliak, about 35 miles southwest of Bethel.
Huckstep, who also serves part time in the Alaska National Guard, is one of the troopers assigned to Bethel and is familiar with the area where the two men were last reported.
Kruse, Huckstep, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Morgan Osborn, co-pilot, and Staff Sgt. Caleb Henry, crew chief, searched the area until they found the first man near the mouth of the Johnson River.
The crew landed nearby and helped the man into the helicopter for the flight back to Bethel, where they released him to an emergency medical services team before continuing the search for the second man.
In the meantime, Kruse said, a search and rescue team from Tuntutuliak located the remaining man and brought him back to the town. Due to the severity of his injuries, the AKNG aircrew transported him to a waiting EMS team in Bethel. Both men received treatment at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Regional Hospital in Bethel.